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This makes me more excited than Jessie Spano on pills.

18 May

Ever since I saw Mary Poppins as a young tyke, I have fantasized about jumping into beautiful paintings a la Bert and his sidewalk chalk drawings. Just in case you were deprived of love as a child, here’s what I’m talking about:

If you jump into this picture…

…you get to have a jolly holiday.

While I will still need to find a way to fulfill my other lifelong goals (e.g. swimming in a pool filled with spaghetti, guest starring on Saved by the Bell), the New York Botanical Garden is making this early dream of mine come true this summer. Although I don’t know much about art, I do know two things about the artwork that decorates my room: I like photographs of dogs, and I like the colorful, impressionist works of Monet. From May 19 to October 21, the NYBG is recreating the majestic Giverny garden that inspired many of Monet’s famous paintings, like these below:

Following Bert’s sage advice, I will “think, wink, do a double blink, close my eyes, and jump” into the full bloom of Monet’s work at NYBG. Will also wear Mary’s costume and demand refreshments from penguin waiters.

My Top Ten: Britney Spears Music Videos

27 Dec

Those who know me know of my borderline-unhealthy obsession with BritBrit, so I’m not quite sure how this blog has been active for so long without a Britney-centric post in its history. And while I hate to admit it, some of her videos have been…less than stellar. Among the all-time worst: Gimme More (tears were shed whilst watching this trainwreck), Break the Ice (anime?!), and I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman (R.I.P. Crossroads). But let’s focus on better days. Without further ado, my top ten Britney Spears music videos:

10. Womanizer (2008)

Why: This is Britney’s comeback from the Blackout head-shaving nightmare. She looks incred, and we revert to multiple-character Britney from the golden days of yore.

Most LOLtastic scene: Britney as a limo driver steering the wheel with her high-heeled foot before magically apparating to the backseat.

9. Do Somethin’ (2005)

Why: It is so horrendously bad that it’s good. Everyone involved in this song and video must have been drunk at the time of its creation.

Most LOLtastic scene:  The flying pink hummer.

8. Lucky (2000)

Why: Quintessential Britney before she entered her bad girl phase. It’s pop magic. And it’s also the innocent precursor to the much more disturbing Everytime, in which Britney basically kills herself due to her stardom. Lucky, beware.

Most LOLtastic scene: Britney 1.0 continually throwing glitter from her perch on a cardboard star onto Britney 2.0, a character whose name is actually Lucky.

7. Oops!…I Did It Again (2000)

Why: This video has more backstory than the unnecessary plotline to a porno. And it takes place on Mars, no less. Obviously. Also, the red leather catsuit. Halloween 2012, prepare.

Most LOLtastic scene: The spaceman brings martian Britney the necklace from Titanic. What?

6. Stronger (2000)

Why: The chair dancing and the superb eye makeup.

Most LOLtastic scene: The crimped strands of hair.

5. (You Drive Me) Crazy (1999)

Why: It’s before Britney videos became intricate storytelling devices and focuses on the choreography instead.

Most LOLtastic scene: Melissa Joan Hart, Adrian Grenier, and their awful associated movie.

4. Till the World Ends (2011)

Why: It’s an apocalyptic party in the sewers.

Most LOLtastic Scene: It’s an apocalyptic party in the sewers.

4a. And it’s also because I reserve a special place in my heart for this tune.

3. Toxic (2003)

Why: The costumes, namely the diamond-encrusted Britney.

Most LOLtastic scene: Britney riding on the back of Tyson Beckford’s motorcycle in a futuristic Paris.

2. …Baby One More Time (1998)

Why: Her first-ever, iconic music video.

Most LOLtastic scene: The overall innocence of a 16-year-old (!) Britney.

1. I’m a Slave 4 U (2001)

Why: Defining moment of her career and sexuality, the antithesis of …Baby One More Time. The choreography. Her abs.

Most LOLtastic scene: None. This video is perfection.

 

Two Years and 15 Pounds Later…

25 Dec

After spending two years following Weight Watchers Online, I decided to respond to one of the site’s casting calls this past August. It was simple enough: fill out the basic information, answer a few personal questions, submit a before and after photo. My angle: I wasn’t the “typical” weight loss story in that I didn’t have to lose a huge amount of weight in order to be healthy, and I managed to stick to the plan throughout major life changes.

Fast forward, beginning of October. I get a call that WW is interested in my story. The next few days are a whirlwind in which I have a Skype interview and am subsequently told that WW wants me (and six other girls) to come to the city for a week of shooting. The perks: hotel room, meals, payment per diem, once-in-a-lifetime experience. The downsides: well, there were none. I was sold at free lunch.

I arrived in the city on Tuesday night. I was expecting decent accommodations, but my mind was absolutely blown when I checked into the Mondrian Soho, the epitome of swank. I got the key to my room on the 23rd floor and opened the door to my home for the next four days: the deluxe king-bed suite.

Highlights of these accommodations:

  • Floor-to-ceiling windows, all around the room, providing 360 degree views of the entire city.
  • Shower window overlooking midtown. No curtains. Rather voyeuristic.
  • Welcome package from WW upon arrival, including a Burt’s Bees gift box
  • Ordering room service and setting wake-up calls via complimentary iPad; iHome also provided
  • Did I mention the views?

Despite being over-stimulated by my new digs on Tuesday night, I managed to fall asleep during the early hours of morning. At 7:00 AM, I was ready to go and was met by my driver (!) outside to head off to wardrobe fitting, hair, and makeup. The next eight hours were spent trying on beautiful clothes, shoes, and accessories, and taking pictures of each outfit combination to be approved by the corporate bigwigs.

Accessories galore.

My clothing rack.

One of the chosen outfits.

Be still, my heart.

But the best part of this day had to be the shoes. Oh, the shoes. The ones pictured above were unbelievably amazing, and I got to wear them on the day of the photo shoot with this dress. I was lucky enough to get to keep the dress; the shoes, sadly, had to be returned. Let’s dwell on them for a while, shall we?

Oh Miu God.

And more shoes…

Yes.

YES.

YES!

YES!!!

Wednesday came to a close, and on Thursday I finished up the final wardrobe fitting in anticipation for Friday’s shoot. As if this week couldn’t get more wonderful, my mom’s birthday was on Thursday, so my family and I saw Rent and went out to dinner. And then mom and I had a girls’ night in at the hotel.

Friday was crazy. I was the first one to shoot, so I had to be on set at 6:30 AM. The studio, by the way, was in a warehouse in Brooklyn, which I later discovered was an old porn set. Each room had a different “theme”: Southwestern, prison cell, Japanese, etc. The giveaway may have been the defunct jacuzzis in each room. Moving on. After hair, makeup, and wardrobe were complete, I was ready to rock and roll by 9:00. For the commercial shoot, it was all ad-libbing, answering the director’s questions about my WW experience. My video shoot outfit isn’t pictured, but I got to wear (and take home!) jeans, a blouse, a blazer, and a new pair of boots. A photo of the shoes, you ask? If I must.

After the commercial shoot was wrapped up, it was time to change into the dress and heels for the photo shoot. This part of the week falls into top three highlights of my life. As the bulbs flashed away, Britney started blasting throughout the studio. Soon, we were all fist-pumping and cat-clawing. It was absurd and amazing.

Perhaps the best perk arising from the payment was that I was able to invest in an elliptical machine, which is now used daily in my house. It’s ironic, but I feel like I am now in better shape and continue to lose weight after this whole experience. And it’s not too shabby to see myself on the homepage of people.com, either.

Check out my full story (and before and after pictures!) on Weight Watchers here and here.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2012.

“Death is Nothing at All”

26 Apr

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

Henry Scott Holland

On the Peculiarities of Time: Reflections of a Year

21 Apr

June and Rich in 1968

People ask me if it feels like a year since my Dad’s been gone. I don’t know how long a year is supposed to seem anymore.

Papa, Dad, and Mom

How is it possible that it feels like an eternity since April 27 and simultaneously feels as vivid and real as yesterday? I think when the heart is grappling with grief, those pesky universal rules of time and space do not apply. There are still days where, for a millisecond, I reach for my phone to call my Dad, or where I hear a joke and for a brief moment remind myself to tell him that one later. This morning I woke up and thought to myself, “Is he really gone?” It’s a cruel trick that the mind plays on us. But when somebody that you’ve known and loved for your entire existence is no longer part of this physical world, it’s a bizarre thing to comprehend.

At the Bronx Zoo

Does it feel like a year? A year is all at once a long stretch of time and yet no time at all.

So much has happened in a year. I worked my first full-time job and got my first apartment not paid for by the University. I adopted my little Bailey. I created the Remembering Rich team for the Lustgarten Foundation’s Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk and, with the help and support of loved ones, raised $8700 to find a cure. I began to acknowledge the bittersweet transience of life and determined which values and goals are of the highest importance to me.

March 2010

Among the highest right now are to move home with family, to heal together, to help each other. To fully immerse myself into a career where I feel I am making a significant impact on individuals and an imprint on the world; more specifically, to become an elementary and special education teacher. To examine my relationships with people and strengthen those that vitalize and inspire me and discontinue those that weaken and exhaust me.

(Hopefully by now you’ve realized this post is not going to be about Saved by the Bell.)

At Jones Beach

I experienced a lot of firsts this year, beginning with my first birthday without my Dad. Four days after he passed away, I was supposed to be celebrating another year in my life. That was a strange day, to say the least.

May 2009

And yet, it was still a beautiful day. It was on a Saturday, and nobody comes for Shiva on Saturday since it’s Shabbat. So I got to be surrounded by the people I love most – and the people who love me most – and be myself without a trace of self-consciousness. We reminisced, and we laughed, and we cried. And it felt like he was still there. We experienced our first holidays without my Dad here. Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving, New Years, and most recently, Passover. And we could still feel him here. I guess spending 20-something years with someone will do that. I hope it always feels that way.

Franklin Park Zoo, May 2009

Next Wednesday will be the last first on this journey: the one-year anniversary of his death. And this is where one year feels like no time has passed at all. The details of that day are so clear in my head, and I don’t think that will ever change. I will forever remember how we were all around his bed when he lifted his arms to the three of us in his final moment of lucidity.

Boston Pops, May 2009

How he dedicated his last ounce of strength to reaching out to hug us. How he was unable to speak, and how no words were needed to express the everlasting and boundless love that does not perish when a person does. How I lay next to him and we shared my earphones and listened to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, the song we picked out for our dance at my wedding. I know he heard it. How we were there telling him how proud we were of him—of his bravery and his courage—and how much we loved him, as he took his last breath and transcended to an unknown world where none of us could follow.

It’s been quite a year.


“Life is eternal, and love is immortal,
and death is only a horizon;
and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

“To be awake is to be alive.”

11 Apr

My six years in Boston is coming to a close…for now. With the end in sight, I’m realizing that there are still a few things in this city I have not yet done, and I don’t want to make the same mistakes that I did while studying abroad in London. Like that one time I worked next door to Westminster Abbey for two months and never entered Westminster Abbey. (What a freakin’ idiot.) Now, there is a sense of urgency to accomplish the following before I return to the island from whence I came:

1. Ride the swan boats and giggle like the four-year-old children who will be sitting next to me.

2. Go to Walden Pond with a copy of Walden in tow; I’ll probably be the first person ever to do that.

3. Kayak on the Charles a.k.a. the Jarls.

4. See the Blue Man Group and think of Dr. Tobias Fünke the entire time.

"I just blue myself."

5. Eat in Chinatown.

6. Take Sunset Cantina with me.

7. And the North End.

8. Visit the magical land of Rockport one more time.

9. Go to one more Sox game before I have to decide where my baseball loyalty lies. (It does not, and never will, lie with the Yankees.)

10. Have a sunset picnic in my favorite spot in Boston: the dock on the Esplanade.

11. Find Ben Affleck filming another Boston-based movie.

12. Buy a quality Boston snow globe to add to my stellar snow-global collection.

13a. Cry uncontrollably in a rocking position in the middle of Newbury Street where the beautiful foreigners will smoke cigarettes and judge me.

13b. Cry uncontrollably in a rocking position in the middle of Faneuil Hall whilst being incorporated into a street performance.

Stay tuned for photographic evidence of these adventures as I cross them off my list. And then stay tuned for my proposed list of Long Island-based outings. There will be just as much stuff to do on LI as there is in Boston, right? RIGHT? (Please see #13 and #14.)

How Connected is Too Connected?

7 Mar

Last night marked the beginning of Boston Restaurant Week, which lasts not for one, but for two, glorious weeks. The boyfriend and I dined at The Capital Grille, and while the food was fabulous, this particular post is about what happened at the table next to us during dinner. It was an appalling commentary of where we as a society have come.

Three gentlemen were enjoying their clam chowder appetizers, each of them focused on their handheld smart phones throughout the course. I found this odd. Why go to dinner with others if you are not going to communicate with them? But, I thought, it can’t possibly last throughout the entire meal…

What a fool this mortal be. Their antisocial behavior continued throughout the main course; each man’s eyes were glued to his phone as he robotically and methodically brought fork to mouth, probably not even enjoying the silky goodness of the 14 oz. bone-in Kona-crusted dry aged sirloin with caramelized shallot butter, creamed spinach, and mashed tatoes!!! (Clearly, I, on the other hand, did enjoy.)

The boyfriend commented that maybe they were businessmen taking care of important business, though regardless of circumstances, this circus was reaching an absurd point. However, one of the three men was dressed like a total schlub, and I thus refute the idea that they were businessmen taking care of important business.

Halfway through the entrée, one of the men managed to put his phone away. What a relief! A human being was restored to this table of cyborgs! Sadly for our friend, his compadres were still carrying out their love affairs with their devices, and so he was left staring blankly at a wall decorated with a moose head. The moose was probably better company anyway.

Wired.

Dessert came. A second man snapped back to life! A real, live conversation using human mouths was taking place! Incredulously, the third man did not put his phone away. He did not speak a word the whole night. He did not put his device down or look up once. After the meal was over, he rose from his seat and walked to the door – STILL entranced by his paramour.

Can you imagine being at a table with these people? While I have never dined with someone so blatantly rude, I have experienced meals with those who begin laughing for no reason – only to realize that they are laughing at something their digital friend just said. What has happened to etiquette? Manners? Normal social human interaction? Don’t get me wrong. Technology obviously has its myriad benefits. Websites like Facebook have revolutionized the way we connect with others, and to be sure, there are perks to that. But it would be asinine to aver that there are no negative consequences to this new way of life. When does being connected become too connected?

Where is that fine line between maintaining meaningful and personal relationships and establishing shallow “relationships” online, for example, in the Twitterverse? I have seen people texting while crossing the street, nearly getting hit by cars, and not even realizing it. I have been subject to conversations that revolve around nothing other than how great a certain device is. There is nothing more boring to me than debating the merits of a Blackberry versus an iPhone. Is this really what people have to talk about now? I am so grateful for my dinky little “feature phone” – a phone without all that glitz and glamour – because my life is not being controlled by a thing. I don’t have to constantly update everyone with every minute detail of my life. I am not trying to display my wit, humor, or trivial information in 140 characters for the joy (or displeasure) of a bunch of followers. I am living my life in the moment instead of interrupting an experience to post about it online as it’s happening.

It’s very Fahrenheit 451ish, if you ask me.

At the rate we’re going, I fear that soon all social interactions will resemble those of the three droids seated next to me during dinner, a future where we have become so “connected” that we can’t turn off. And it seems that sometimes disconnecting is the only way we can savor the real relationships right in front of us and truly connect.